Take me home, El Capitan!
Requiem for a Friend: A Long Overdue Tribute

I lost my best friend 24 years ago due to the ravages of old age.  Up until this week, I'd never eulogized him. Not because I hadn't thought about it .. I have..  Or thought he deserved it.. He does... I simply wasn't emotionally ready.  Even after all this time, the pain of my loss is ever present. I miss him every single day.  As I type this I have his picture in front of me just below my computer monitor. I'm not sure when the photo was taken or where. In the pic he's just standing in a doorway watching me. He was probably hoping I'd take him for one of our daily walks. His full name was Huan Chuhada of Valinor, but I called him BooBoo. He was an English bulldog.

Oh what a wonderful 13 years we spent together. Though good times and bad, never once did I doubt his love and devotion, nor did he question mine. He was my best friend, confidante, and my protector.  In fact, he saved my life countless times by warding off assassins disguised as mail carriers, UPS men, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. On one occasion he jumped in between me and a gun-wielding lunatic and refused to move while facing certain death. In essence, he was willing to take a bullet for me.

I picked BooBoo out of a litter of 6 pups after he climbed out of his little basket, ran over to me, and just sat down beside me as if he knew we'd be together always. On second thought, I guess he picked me.  To this day I have no idea what he saw in me. I'm a rather selfish person. Perhaps he saw beyond my shortcomings. They say dogs have that "sixth sense" that lets them see into our souls. Perhaps.

When I got him, I was trying my best to be an adult, but I wasn't quite there yet. He helped me mature. He helped me become a better, more empathic, responsible person. Most importantly, he helped me understand that the universe did not revolve around me. “Helped me.” Two words usually reserved for seeing eye or service dogs. The fact is.. BooBoo was never trained to do anything. It all came naturally for him. With a simple touch of his cold nose, a wag of his stubby tail, or a look with his dark understanding eyes, he taught me valuable life lessons.

While my memory is so bad that I can't recall what I did a week ago, I remember his last 2 days as if they just happened yesterday. Every detail.  It was early 1997. I was packed and leaving the country to live in Guatemala and BooBoo would be my travel partner. A new life for both of us. I already had a place to live and part time job lined up reviewing movies for the local English speaking newspaper. The plan was that I'd get there and start intensive Spanish lessons by day and work by night. We'd have a live-in maid at our rental house (which one can afford for just a few dollars a day) who would take care of him while I was away studying. My aging friend would live out his remaining days being pampered, laying in the warn sun, and eating great food.. A life of comfort befitting a retiring foreign dignitary. Cold Nashville winters would be a thing of the past for BooBoo's old bones as there is no cold weather in Guatemala.

The day before we were to leave the US for our grand adventure, my vet gave us some doggie sedatives for the long flight. He added..  " I've never seen an English Bull live to be 13.. He must have had a good life."  (In dog years he was 91) I had already purchased a flight-worthy dog carrier a week prior and had all BooBoo's paperwork and shots completed.. His doggie Passport and Delta Airline ticket were in hand. We were stoked and ready. Our lives were about to change and he seemed to sense it.

While generally BooBoo moved like an old dog with his poor eyesight and arthritis.. today.. on this day... he was jumping.. excited... happy.  He was like a puppy. I'd not seen him like this for years. I'd quit my job a week prior and all the packing was done so we had this day all to ourselves to relax.. play.. love.  It was a great day.. The best of days..

The next morning I got up early .. Anxious for the big day ahead. My bags were packed and in the car. Our flight was 2pm.  I got dressed and went downstairs to let BooBoo out for his morning pee and found my faithful friend laying on the floor on his side. Overnight he'd taken the rainbow bridge and my heart with him. Our time together .. over. I remember uttering the words.. "Oh, BooBoo."

With the help of my stepfather, by noon we had built a small coffin and buried him under an oak tree in my mother's back yard. I returned the unused dog carrier on the way to the airport and by 2PM I was on the plane .. alone. The mourning began as soon as I was in the air and has not diminished in 24 years.

Some nights I still dream about him. Those are always my favorites. In those dreams I'm aware of the fact that I'm dreaming and I know that once I wake up he'll be gone so I play with him, hug him, and talk to him as if it'll be the last time we'll see each other. I say the things I should have said when he was alive. I apologize for spanking his butt with a newspaper for peeing on the carpet.. or not buying the expensive dog food.. or not getting him a thicker bed when he got older. Regrets I now live with. I make promises to him that I intend to keep in the afterlife if given the chance.  When I pray, I ask God to pet him for me and let him know I'll be along soon. Very soon. It's comforting to think he'll be there. Patiently waiting for me at Heaven's gate. His stubby little tail wagging.

His was the sweetest soul I've ever encountered.  A better friend no man could ask for. He was a good boy.

"Some will protest that in a world with so much human suffering, it is something between eccentric and obscene to mourn a dog. I think not. After all, it is perfectly normal, indeed, deeply human to be moved when nature presents us with a vision of great beauty. Should we not be moved when it produces a vision — a creature — of the purest sweetness?"  ...Charles Krauthammer

Written Feb 4th, 2021.. Jerry D. Finley
Pirates Lair